A Senate food safety bill that stalled in the House after running afoul of a constitutional requirement was included in the FY11 spending bill passed by the House.
House leaders said they could not take up the Senate-passed food safety measure (S. 510) on its own because the Constitution requires bills that raise revenue must originate in the House. The continuing resolution offered a vehicle to return the measure to the Senate.
During House debate, Rep. Barton, R-Texas, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the food safety bill should go to conference to reconcile differences between the Senate version and the House-passed companion (HR 2749). However, the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dingell, D-Mich., said the Senate bill did not drastically diverge from what the House had passed and urged colleagues to pass the measure.
Several GOP members, including incoming House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas, R-Okla., complained of the process. In a letter to House members, Reps. Lucas and Barton said that legislation should be based on “transparency, openness and regard for regular order” rather than rushed into law.
The bill also contains the Tester amendment which exempts small farms from provisions of the bill and is opposed by a number of agricultural groups.
On the Senate side, Sen. Harkin, D-Ind., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has stated the Senate omnibus spending bill also would include the food safety language.
In addition to food safety, the House spending measure (HR 3082) would set discretionary spending for USDA, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and related agencies at $22.6 billion, $724 million below the FY10 level. The bill would provide the FDA with more funding to increase inspections of food, medical devices and drugs, and would boost funding for nutrition assistance programs and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which assumes new authority to regulate over-the-counter derivatives.